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Executive Insight

Why Successful People Zigzag Through Life And Leave A Mess In Their Wake

There is a widely held misconception that successful people exit the womb and embark on a rather straight line path to what they want and how they want to secure it. But the fact is, in the vast majority of cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Successful people, self-made wealthy people -- the leaders in our midst and the leaders we may want to be -- move through life constantly checking their compasses, looking at the skies, being introspective and asking themselves "Am I really applying my talents to their highest and best use? Am I truly moving in the most promising direction? Is there something else that I should be doing that will drive me to true to success?"

It appears messy, confusing, difficult, challenging and often exhausting in the midst of the journey. But in actuality, that's mostly the way it looks from a distance. To those who are on a lifelong journey of growth, the reach for the stars leads to epiphanies that open new vistas, changes in direction and most important, midcourse corrections that leave zigzag patterns in the snow. It doesn't appear pretty or symmetrical from 40,000 feet but is the very lack of a paint by numbers picture -- the jumbled puzzle pieces that ultimately fit together -- that makes for the signature of success.

Just look at a few high profile examples:

*Abraham Lincoln did now study law to become president of the United States

*At age 30, Henry Ford was still working as an engineer for Edison Illuminating Company with little or no thought of creating the world's the first modern manufacturing behemoth

*Mark Zuckerberg did not go to Harvard to create a college-based flirting site

All left (and in the latter's case continue to do so) trails of flotsam behind them.

With this in mind, I suggest that we all reverse engines and add more mess to our careers:

*Every five years or so take a good hard look at the path you're on and transition to a more productive one (there always is one).

*Hold your most firmly held beliefs about career success up to an unforgiving light and challenge them. In many cases, you will see that they are conventions passed along by others. They need to be dumped and we need to walk through the muck that creates en route to a more promising zag.

*Ask yourself if it's time for a complete reinvention: a new field, course of study, occupation, passion. Yes, this creates a hell of a wake, but don't fight it, ride it.

Consistency has merits when it comes to making the recipes for Heinz ketchup and Coca-Cola but not when you are talking about the Herculean challenge of building an extraordinary career.

And most important, when it comes to making a difference.

 

 

 Mark Stevens

CEO of marketing firm MSCO, Inc.| Bestselling Author of Your Marketing Sucks & King Icahn